My dear Sisters and Brothers!
It is indeed a very engaging statement: “I am a Christian. Ask me why.” The statement not only explains who I am but it also invites others to this very personal and intimate sphere of my life - my faith. That’s what Jesus said: “No one puts a lamp under a bed but on the table so that the others could see its light.”
I presume that Peter, James, John and Paul, of whom we heard in today’s readings, did not wear a T-shirt I have just shown you. However the T-shirt is inspired by their lifestyle. They were not shy to acknowledge they were Christians and they also had an answer to why they were Christians. Their answer actually summarizes the events described in the readings for this Sunday.
If we asked Peter: “Why are you a Christian?” He would say: “Because I have met Jesus Christ. He came to me first. He invited me to follow him.”
If we asked John, the young John, the beloved disciple of the Lord: “Why are you a Christian?” He would say: “Because I have met Jesus Christ. He came to me first. He invited me to follow him.”
If we asked James, who was the first of the Apostles to be martyred for Christ: “Why are you a Christian?” He would say: “Because I have met Jesus Christ. He came to me first. He invited me to follow him.”
If we asked Paul, the one who used to be obsessed with killing Christians: “Why are you a Christian now?” He would say: “Because Jesus appeared to me: it was as though I was born when no one expected it.”
The faith of those people wasn’t about some sophisticated philosophy but it was all about a very concrete and real encounter with Jesus Christ.
Pope Francis in his first document wrote: “I never tire of repeating those words of Pope Benedict XVI: “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
Are we disadvantaged because we were not born two thousand years ago in the Holy Land to have an encounter with the Lord Jesus? No at all. St Paul wrote: “I preach what the other Apostles preached, and this is what you all believed.” Our Blessed Lord has given the Church the power of the Holy Spirit so that when the Word of God is preached, when the sacraments are celebrated, when Christians bear witness before the world of unbelievers, Jesus Christ stands there. He is there very concrete and real, like he was concrete and real that day in Galilea when he came to Peter, John and James, like that day near Damascus when Paul saw him and was blind for some days after that.
When people ask you why you are Christians, please don’t say that it is because Jesus is better than Buddha, Mohamed, Confucius etc. Instead say: “I am a Christian because I have met Jesus Christ. He came to me first. He invited me to follow him.”
Recently I have heard a story which I find both encouraging and challenging to my faith: “A woman boarded a train. She had a box of roses with her. However instead of taking her seat she started talking to the people on the train: “My Dad is driving this train. He has been doing it for more than 40 years. I grew up listening to him how much he loved delivering people safely and punctually to their destinations. He has been telling us how much he enjoyed seeing people walking out of his train into the arms of their friends and relatives. He did care for the people on his train. They have been important to him. This is his last ride. When the stain stops he will begin his retirement. That’s why I dare to ask you: Could you take a rose and give it to him when the train stops?” When the train did stop there was no rose in the box left. People took them and gave them to the man because after having listened to the woman they realized a connection between them and the train driver. They realized that he was a part of their story as much as they were part of his story.
My Dear Friends, as Christians it is our privilege to say to those who live and enjoy God’s care without knowing about him, that he is there. It is our privilege to assist them at discovering the connection between them and Jesus. Just think how many of you give any thought, while on the train, to the person who drives the train. Just think how many people don’t give any thought to God who keeps this whole world going. It is our privilege to do something about that.